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Where Talent Meets Career Opportunity

Life after high school graduation doesn't follow one single, narrow path. Thus, educators are responsible for ensuring the high school journey prepares students for graduation and beyond-be it at a four-year university, trade school, two-year college and even the workforce.
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Forty-five percent of all U.S. children live in low-incomes families, according to the National Center for Children Living in Poverty.1 Numerous studies have proven that the youth from these families are more likely than their peers from middle- and high-income families to engage in risky behavior, including having sex before age 16, joining a gang, attacking someone or getting into a fight, stealing something worth more than $50, and running away.2
The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model structured around video lectures, which are watched by students on their own time outside the classroom. Classroom time is then repurposed into an interactive workshop where students openly discuss lecture content, apply and assimilate knowledge, and collaborate with one another during hands-on activities.
Unfortunately, in a far larger part of the young-adult marketplace are the millions of young people between ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school and out of work, and they are most often the forgotten people in the employment marketplace. This is a pandemic that sits near the epicenter of the middle-skills crisis, as most have left high school without a diploma and suffer from acute achievement and skills gaps. While education remains the single most important factor that drives employment and life-time income, this cohort is most often disconnected and lacks even basic credentials, skills and direction.
Owners and managers of quick-service restaurants and retail stores know that high turnover rates are common in these industries. Not only does frequent hiring and training cost time, money and efficiency, losing key frontline employees-who provide excellent customer service and get along well with other employees-can be an even more costly loss. Effective talent management1 helps retain and shape star employees and prevents increasing turnover rates. Create and nurture a talented staff to beat the industry competition and positively impact the local community.
The "skills marketplace" is complex and rapidly changing; this contributes to an imbalance of supply and demand of labor and has different implications across various segments of the workforce. Arguably, the group most impacted by changes is the adult-youth workforce-as of June 2013, only 43.6 percent of those 18 to 29 years old were employed full-time, even as overall unemployment has improved to 6.1 percent. This performance is a significant milestone because six-and-a-half years after the Great Recession began the U.S. economy has finally surpassed its pre-crisis employment peak, and yet millions of young adults are struggling. Most worrisome, an unbundling of the youth-adult job market highlights this is not a single cohort, but instead among the most extreme example of "Haves" and "Have-Nots" among workforce peer groups.
Non-traditional students are the new norm on many college campuses. Only as few as 16 percent of college students today fit the so-called "traditional" mold: 18-22 years old, financially dependent on their parents, in college full time and living on campus, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.1 For career colleges, non-traditional students make dream candidates. Adult students go back with a goal in mind. Whether they are seeking career advancement or skills training, non-traditional students are driven by purpose.
The economy is continuing its slow recovery from the 2008 collapse as the average industry has increased its workforce by just over 1 percent since 2002. Though overall job growth has been sluggish, it doesn't mean job growth isn't occuring -- it's just not evenly distributed. Some job sectors, like healthcare and construction, are actually thriving.1 With this sector specific job growth, many new high school graduates are forgoing the traditional four-year college experience in hopes of jumping right into the higher growth employment markets. The Census Bureau reported that 463,000 fewer people were enrolled in college between 2012 and 2013, making it the second year enrollment has fallen by that much, bringing the two-year total to 930,000 fewer college students.1 However, attempting to pursue a career path without industry recognized skills training or certification often leads to frustration, lower wages and frequent job changes. How should high school graduates not directly entering a four year college and focused on employment in high growth sectors approach this path ahead?
Yesterday, Penn Foster, in collaboration with America's Promise, hosted a virtual discussion: Don't Call them Dropouts: A Conversation About "Non-Completes" and What it Takes to Raise Graduation Rates. We were proud to be joined by  moderator, Jon Zaff, Executive Director of Center for Promise and panelists Ray McNulty, Chairman of Penn Foster High School Board; Chairman of National Dropout Prevention Center Network, Elayne Bennett, President & Founder, Best Friends Foundation, and Beth Reynolds, National Dropout Prevention Center Network . Key points discussed include the power of adversity, resiliency and connection, how the education system can change and adapt to the needs and challenges of these students, and the barriers students are facing to re-enter school after taking time off. 

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